Many of the area households affected by Irma are still without power. Even with electrical crews working around the clock, as of this writing, around 400,000 people remain without power. However, many residents are thankful that lack of power is the only problem they are facing. 10,000 people in the Keys were left homeless, which translates to a devastating 25% of the homes destroyed and another 65% damaged. With so many friends and neighbors dealing with hazardous electrical issues, the staff at Home Service Heroes wanted to share safety tips specifically for residential electrical systems. We compiled a list of important safety procedures endorsed by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) for homeowners to consider when returning to their homes post-hurricane.

Generator Safety

  • Backup generators are a popular source of alternative power and, when used properly, can be essential tools for meeting electrical needs through an outage.
  • Never operate a portable generator inside your home or any enclosed (or even partially enclosed) area. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly and can be extremely dangerous.
  • Before using your generator, make sure that your home has at least one battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. Make sure that it is functioning before using your generator.
  • Make sure that an appropriate transfer switch has been installed by a licensed technician before connecting a generator to your home’s electrical system.
  • Turn off the generator and let it cool down before attempting to refuel.
  • A backup generator should be at least 20 feet away from your home when in use.

Submerged Electrical Appliances

  • Be mindful of electrical equipment/appliances that have been exposed to water. Without proper reconditioning, they can be extremely dangerous. If your home experienced flooding and had electrical items submerged, the safest route is to have them replaced.
  • A trained professional might be able to fix an electrical appliance that has been submerged in water, but it should never be plugged in for use or testing until it has been assessed.
  • If you return to a home that has been compromised by flood damage and is without power, unplugs any electrical items still connected to outlets.
  • Items that are a part of your home’s electrical system including GFCIs, receptacles, plugs, switches, and circuit breakers can malfunction when water and silt get inside. If your home has been submerged in water, these items need to be thrown out and replaced.
  • Ocean water is particularly damaging to electrical systems and equipment as the saltwater residue can corrode the protective seal of the circuits.

Returning Home Post-Evacuation

  • When returning home, make sure to do so during daylight hours. This is especially important if power has not been restored.
  • If there is still water in your home, be very careful when stepping into the area. Submerged electrical outlets could energize the water and electrocute anyone in proximity. It is not recommended to enter a residence that is still flooded – even with less than a foot of water.
  • The safest way to proceed with a flooded home during recovery is to make sure that the electrical meter has been removed by a licensed electrician.
  • Never enter a flooded building alone, even if it is disconnected from the grid. It’s too easy to slip or walk into an unsafe area.
  • If you smell gas, do not enter your home. Contact the authorities immediately. If the utility company is not available, call the closest emergency authorities.

If you are returning home after evacuating due to Hurricane Irma, take every precaution when entering and assessing the damage. Try to have at least one other person with you, regardless of the state of your home. Use the tips provided by the ESFI and call on professionals for any electrical problems or procedures, especially if your system was compromised by flooding. The staff at Home Service Heroes wishes you a safe, productive, and speedy recovery.

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